London’s Youth Services Boosted By £40m Kitty

Children’s minister Ed Balls and London’s mayor Ken Livingstone will today unveil plans to spend £40m relaunching youth services in London amid rising concerns about teenage alienation and gang violence.

The programme, described as the “biggest step change in a generation”, will result in new spending on youth training, mentoring schemes, youth clubs, parenting strategies and the specific targeting of teenagers considered to be at risk of sliding into antisocial behaviour and gang activity.

Under a plan agreed by Mr Balls and the mayor’s office, the government will provide £20m of the funding in the first year, which will be matched from Mr Livingstone’s budget. He will then continue to channel £20m a year into youth services through the London Development Agency.

There will also be a new drive to persuade adults to volunteer their time to help the younger generation.

Mr Livingstone said some of the motivation stemmed from his experiences as a child in London: “My generation grew up in a city where adults gave their time at evenings and weekends to work with children and give them skills. That seemed to die out in the 80s and 90s. I would like to see that rebuilt.”

The mayor said the plan would benefit all sections of the community but especially those “failed by racism and the education system and a lack of aspiration”.

He said: “We must reach out and put in place a second-chance programme and see what we can do to take kids of our streets.”

Some of the money will be channelled through the London boroughs as part of the Youth Opportunity Fund project. In many cases, young people will be able to suggest how the money is spent.

A proportion will also be used in developing the “social skills” of “hard to reach” youngsters and their parents. Research indicates that poor parenting is a major factor leading to youth crime and antisocial behaviour.

Another tranche of the money will be used to focus more specifically on teenagers considered most at risk of offending and the deprived areas in which they live.

Further work is planned, financed by up to £50m from the European Social Fund, which should become available next year. That will be used to develop employment and training support programmes for those youngsters designated by policymakers as not in education, employment or training.

One source close to the discussions said the new drive would seek to address the high-profile problems of gang activity and crime, in light of the 17 teenage murders in the capital this year.

But he said the new plans should be seen in a positive light, extending opportunities for all and not just problem cases. “This will be the biggest investment in youth services for a generation,” the source said. “In terms of the concentration on this sort of activity and the money spent, it will be a quantum leap.”

The level of social spending and the state of the inner cities has become a political battleground for Labour and the Tories.

David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has pledged that, if returned to power, the party would heal Britain’s “broken society”.

Since becoming prime minister, Gordon Brown has promised £184m of extra funds to improve youth facilities across the country, including a youth club in every constituency, plus £100m to be spent on school sports. London is seen as a key test bed for making sure those policies work.